Scout camp visit brings back memories of boyhood days at Westhall camp

David Rose and his fellow Boy Scouts at  Westhall camp site in the early 1960s.
David Rose and his fellow Boy Scouts at Westhall camp site in the early 1960s.

There were many happy returns to be had when David Rose returned to South Shields for a ‘reunion’ of Boy Scouts at Westhall camp site.

For not only was it the first time he had been back there for 55 years, it was also the chance to celebrate the 80th birthday (even though it’s actually in December) of scouting stalwart and former Shields Gazette compositor Bill Pattison.

David Rose next to the Tommy statue in Seaham.

David Rose next to the Tommy statue in Seaham.

To commemorate the occasion, David, who has featured in these pages before, sent me an old photo of himself with some of his fellow scouts, taken in the early 1960s, along with a couple of more recent snapshots.

“My aunt Kathleen gave me the photograph during my visit, which was the first time I’d been back since 2014,” explained David.

“On the left is Derek Duckworth, Bill Pattison is behind him, and I’m to the right of Derek. I don’t remember any of the other names, but maybe others can identify them.

“Bill has had a lifetime of involvement in scouting, including being warden of Westhall campsite, where we celebrated his 80th birthday.

“It was the first time I had camped at Westhall for 55 years, since leaving Shields to join the RAF in 1965, so the memories flooded back.

“It was quite emotional walking around the site, which hadn’t really changed much other than the additional and upgraded buildings, accommodation and ablutions.”

Memories of when he first joined the scouting movement may have been vague, but as David explains, others were well remembered.

“I started in the Cubs with St Francis (Garwood Street) troop, I think it was the 23rd South Shields Scout Group. Bob Glenwright was the scoutmaster.

“I don’t remember much from those days, I was very young!

“From there, I moved to Whiteleas and joined the 18th St Cuthbert’s, where my uncle Bill Pattison was the scoutmaster.

“I remember the great Scout nights we had in the hut on King George Road, learning about scouting, about flags and knots and the animals that we’d named our patrols after - mine was Badger Patrol.

“We also had ceremonies such as the flag raising and lowering at each meeting, investitures, the awarding of achievement badges and promotions.

“We also played various games, including ‘British Bulldog’ among others.

“We had fabulous camps. Apart from the weekend camps at Westhall, Whitburn, we would go up into the wilds of County Durham for a fortnight summer camp, often to a place called Chipchase, but we did vary the locations.

“We’d all pile onto a coach, but the kit, tents, cooking gear, ropes, flagpole etc. came on a three-tonner.

“Each patrol would have their campsite area, and competitions were run to see which area had the most imaginative, and neatest, gadgets such as shoe, cutlery and mug racks, fire pit, layout of camp, seating.

“There were inspections, including cleanliness, and everything was scrupulously inspected, rather like when I was in my initial RAF training.

“It was all great stuff for teaching us to look after ourselves and also learning self discipline.

“The Gang Show, held at St Aidan’s Hall, in St Aidan’s Road, was an annual highlight and I took part in a couple of them.”

During the ‘reunion’, David and the others sat around a ‘fire pit’ to keep warm, talked about old times and sang a few folk songs.

“It was good to be surrounded by good Geordie people (all 60 of them) - and I even had the chance to visit ‘Tommy’ at Seaham while I was there.”

* What are your memories of being in the Boy Scouts or the Girl Guides?